Washington College was chartered in 1782. But, it began as an academy for boys called the Kent County Free School, which was established by an act of the Maryland Assembly in 1723. The college has a long history of collecting and preserving primary resources. It is the first college founded in the newly formed United States, the first college in Maryland, and the country’s tenth oldest institution of higher learning.
Unfortunately, the campus suffered two fires, the first in 1827. Board minutes from Friday, January 12, 1827 read, “Yesterday evening about half past seven o’clock it was discovered that the College was on fire. The fire commenced among a parcel of corn blades belonging to Mrs. Sarah B. Blake and then in the cellar under the common hall. In a few hours, the whole building was destroyed.” In 1886, another account suggested the fire was unintentional and accidently set by one of the students who went in the basement to get some fodder. Most records of the college were destroyed.
A second fire occurred in 1916 in William Smith Hall, which was only 9 years old at the time of destruction. The building housed everything central to running the campus and sadly lost biology, chemistry and laboratory equipment, display cabinets, over 500 books in the bookstore, 125 hymnals, filing cabinets, framed pictures and 3,500 volumes in the library. The building was rebuilt by 1918 at a cost of $76,000. Again, many of the records of the college had been destroyed. Due to the fires, most materials in the archives date from the 1916 period and beyond.
Faculty and other members of the Chestertown community have collected many of the materials in the archives to support their own research. Materials have been placed in the library for long-term preservation and wider availability.
The Miller Library Archives Collection was dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Kohl Sr., P’ 85 in 2012.
The Archives & Special Collections are open from 9:00-4:00, Monday through Friday, with a break for lunch. You are also welcome to set up an appointment with the archivist if you'd like to access the materials "after" traditional business hours.
The Archives are located on the ground floor of the Clifton M. Miller Library at Washington College. The Special Collections are located throughout the library, please ask the archivist for details.
If you have any materials, objects or items you are considering donating to Washington College Archives & Special Collections, please contact Heather Calloway to discuss your potential gift. Articles related to the history of Washington College, Chestertown, Kent and Queen Anne's Counties, the Eastern Shore and other Chesapeake Bay and Maryland materials are preserved and maintained in the collections.
Washington College Alumni
Did you attend Washington College? We are looking for more items about student life at Washington College. Help us find things that tell the story of student life in Chestertown. Our archives have President's papers, athletics photos, and much more, but we are missing many student life items. Student life is an important part of our history, but there are gaps in our collections and we are looking for your help.
Photographs from events, activities, clubs, groups, class trips
Journals, letters, notes, diaries, tests, notes, manuscripts
Flyers, posters, programs from events
By-laws, meeting minutes, composites, scrapbooks
Anything that says "Washington College" - we might be interested, so let us know what you have!
Image from the 1909 Pegasus
We are on Twitter! @askWCarchives